SAVANNAH JAZZ FESTIVAL: Ana Popovic

Seven-time Blues Music Award nominee takes the stage at 40th Savannah Jazz Festival

7-time Blues Music Award nominee Ana Popovic has been touring and performing for over 20 years. The award-winning guitar player, singer and songwriter will be performing at the Savannah Jazz Festival on Friday, September 24. 

“It’s really hard to believe that twenty years ago, I gave up a career in graphic design, formed the Ana Popovic band, and decided to be a full-time musician. Soon after, I traveled to Memphis to record HUSH!, my first solo release,” said Popovic.

The hard-touring guitar slinger was born in 1976 in the old town of Belgrade, formerly Yugoslavia and is the eldest daughter of Milutin and Vesna Popovic. Her younger sister was born 5 years later. Ana grew in a family where music is very important. Her father Milutin is a creditable guitar and bass player who would always invite friends over for nightly jam sessions. 

Ana also grew up listening to her father’s impressive blues and soul records. Despite this Ana was not completely taken by the guitar bug yet and it would not be until she was 15 years-old that she picks up fathers’ guitar. 

Her father continues to help her but recognizes that his daughter’s natural gift for playing the instrument goes beyond his own abilities. Though her family wasn’t rich Milutin and Vesna make it possible for Ana to take private guitar lessons and Ana puts her soul into them - surprising her teacher with her growth and quickly developing a style of her own.

It is 1995 and Ana has fully found her passion for music but once she goes to college she makes the decision to follow in her father’s footsteps by studying Graphic Design at the University of Belgrade. At this point music now begins to take up more time as Ana forms her very first band ‘Hush’ with friend and guitar player Rade Popovic. Over the next three years Ana’s band plays all the major club venues and by 1998 doing a hundred shows annually and making regular appearances on Yugoslavian television. 

“It feels like just yesterday, I started this project in a garage in Belgrade. Friends and family where supportive, a try-out show at a local bar became a steady gig, and through perseverance and hard work, here we are now,” said Popovic.

The end of Communism meant musicians are finally free to travel and Ana now plays blues festivals in Greece & Hungary. With her band Hush she records her first album “Hometown” and within the next few years the band would perform more gigs and their concert offers and obligations were increasing and Ana decided to leave school and peruse music full time. 

In October of 2000, Ana travels to Memphis to record her first release for Ruf Records. Titled ‘Hush!’ after her first band, the release is produced by Jim Gaines, whose production credits include Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Popovic said, ““I had big dreams back then and I still dream big today. Around that time, I appeared as a special guest on tour with Michael Hill. It was my first North American tour and that spring boarded me to the point where today, two decades later, I can proudly look back at a career of thousands of shows over five continents.”

Ana estimates that over the years she has done about 2500 shows, and easily has another 2500 in the making and says that she never gets tired of it. In her 20 year career she has accumulated many accolades including 7 Blues Music Awards (BMAS) nominations, NPR Music featured artist, and numerous magazine cover appearances. Her music video ‘Lasting King of Love ft. Keb’Mo’ had an exclusive premiere on GRAMMY.com. 

Among her many performances includes being a part of the ‘all-star’ Experience Hendrix ‘14 - ‘19 lineup; a nationwide tour celebrating the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix with Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Eric Johnson.

Her works ‘Like It On Top’, ‘Trilogy’, ‘Can You Stand the Heat’ and ‘Unconditional’ placed in the top 5 of US Best Selling Blues Albums on The Billboard Charts. She and her six-piece band have toured tirelessly, sharing stages with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and many others.

“I’ve successfully merged musical styles and inspired a new generation of guitar players male and female to start pursuing their dreams, regardless of where they were born. Sometimes, the clichés about (music) business are right. If you work hard enough and want it bad enough, you can make anything happen,” she said.

Today Ana lives in Los Angeles and is in a select group of modern blues guitar players. She’s called “one helluva a guitar-player” by Bruce Springsteen and NPR Weekend Edition praised her “Fiery technique on the Stratocaster”.